Pleasant surprises can be a surefire way to cut the monotony.

“Leveraging opportunities to add a little joy to the resident’s day would make the time spent more meaningful and positively anticipated by staff and residents,” says Allison Boulware, RN, manager, national account nurse liaison for Guardian Pharmacy Services.

The answer? “We should be actively seeking new ways to make the med pass more relational,” she says. “This creates a much less intimidating and more inviting environment.”

Engage in conversation.

It’s arguably the best ice breaker of all.

“Asking the resident about his or her childhood or favorite memories while administering meds can distract from a mundane task for the resident,” says Kevin Coggin, consultant pharmacist at Turenne PharMedCo. “It’s also a great way to build lasting relationships and truly deliver patient-centered care.”

Emily Stacy, a PharMerica nurse consultant, believes a simple conversation starter like, “How’s your day going?” is enough to start a good relationship.

“Ask if they are planning on participating in a particular activity that is going on that day,” she adds. “Ask about pictures or an interesting belonging they have in their room. Tell the resident a fun fact or short joke.” 

Personality in and on everything goes a long way.

Boulware believes communities can approve policies that encourage nurses to use their creativity to invite conversation during med passes. There’s no substitute for putting a smile on a grumpy resident.

“Allow nurses to deck out their med cart with funny sayings,” Boulware says. “Imagine how many residents would smile if they saw a cart featuring the saying, ‘Be nice to me! I dispense the happy pills.’”

Giving nurses the opportunity to customize their scrubs and name tags is another way to brighten residents’ spirits. “Allowing them to wear approved pins, patches or bedazzled clothing could spark conversation and common interests,” she explains.

“Residents love theme days,” says Sarah Barker, general manager of Turenne PharMedCo’s pharmacy in Montgomery, AL. “For example, incorporating some favorite football team paraphernalia or wearing team themed scrubs can be a great conversation starter. Here, subtlety is key.”

Music soothes the soul.

Many caregivers say a tune can calm even the grouchiest or most timid seniors.

“Nice, soothing music playing through a [mobile phone] app could bring a spa type experience to the taking of medication — potentially something the resident would look forward to,” says Marti Wdowicki, director of clinical operations for PharMerica.

Boulware suggests caregivers create personalized music playlists.

“The simple gesture of asking a resident about their favorite songs and artists can have a long-lasting impact, making them feel valued in your care,” she says.

“If the nurse is a talented singer, she or he can start the morning with a little jingle,” adds Coggin. 

“I have seen some nurses do their best ‘American Idol’ impression and sing the entire time,” observes Boulware. “The laughter this generates with the residents reduces stress.”

Of course, the more fun added for everyone involved, the better. 

Marci Wayman, consultant pharmacist at Turenne PharMedCo, says even in the fleeting moments of a med pass, quick games can add just the right dose of levity.

“Another great option is to have a trivia fact for the day such as, ‘Did you know Andy Griffith was born today in 1926?’” says Barker. “Remember, though, there are still meds to be passed, so keep it short.”